Our story began on May 17, 2014. After a full day of visiting with friends, Ashley developed a really bad headache. She had a history of migraines, so it was assumed that this was just another one. Later that night, she became nauseated and it was assumed the flu. Two days later she was walking into the corners of doorways and running into furniture. This sent Ashley and Ric to the ER where they discovered that Ashley had swelling in the brain - cause unknown. Below is Ashley’s written account of the diagnosis and the plan ahead, which she used to start her Caring Bridge blog.
“Dear friends and family, after a visit to the ER and subsequent neurosurgery, I have been diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Category IV which is a highly aggressive malignant brain tumor. After this news from the surgeon, we visited the Oncologist with Carly and Brittany who came to help Mom and Dad post-op. He tells us that the tumor may grow back in 3- 6 months, however, the surgeon will not do surgery again. There is a "treatment” that might slow the growth.
Standard is 42 straight days of chemo (pills) in conjunction with radiation M-F during that same time. This is the first line of treatment and is standard across the world. The treatment is based on the Stupp Protocol and has only been available for the past 10 years. After the 42 days, I get a month off with no treatment. If the tumor does not grow back during this time frame, the second line will be chemo (pills) for 5 days then 28 days with no treatment. This will be given for 6-12 months. If the tumor is aggressive and has recurred, then he recommends a “hail Mary” - join a trial, preferably at MD Anderson.
Ric asks what the expected outcome for the treatment is. The Oncologist looks at the girls and asks if we really want to hear this. We say yes and he says to “hold on to our seats.”
Life-extension with treatment is 12-18 months, he likes to go to the longer time. Half of the patients under this treatment die within 18 months. He has a couple of patients at 3 years but that is unusual. If you live 5 years then you have been mis-diagnosed.
I have complete faith that this is where I am supposed to be and that God has a plan for us in this news. I pray for dignity and grace through this journey. Yes, I have wondered, but I trust. What also seems to be consistent is the support, love and prayer from our family/neighbors/ church and community. I hope to share their amazing words of love and support at another time- but I can’t imagine any of us experiencing this without God’s grace and will, nor would I want myself or my family to do so. How reassuring! Thank you, Lord, I am so grateful.”
Ashley did follow the protocol and also researched trials at MD Anderson and Duke. The standard of care allowed Ashley to live 22 months, much longer than expected; long enough to see Carly get married and Brittany give birth to Caden, Ashley's first grandchild. Ashley and Ric joined a Brain Tumor Support Group and met others with her same disease. She completed this journey with dignity and grace, supported by loving friends and family.
So, what do Carly and Ric hope to accomplish? Well, as Ric's son-in-law, Casey Durst, so aptly put it: “Miracles do happen. We want to raise money for research in an attempt to find the miracle so another family doesn't have to go through what we have gone through and continue to go through. There is a cure out there - time and money will find it."